Erin Morenstern's The Night Circus will be a great movie, if they make it into one. It's very visual and intense; it's emotional; it's got a lot of impressive magic that should translate well to the screen. But it's not a perfect book -- Morgenstern has bit off more than she can chew, and she loses control of her material at times. But you can fix that in a movie -- cut some extraneous characters, show us some of the circus magic instead of using the same words over and over again to describe it, and most of all, make the timeline more linear instead of jumping around so much.
I started out listening to this as an audiobook, read by Jim Dale, who read the U.S. editions of the Harry Potter books. He is a great reader and I enjoyed listening to him, but the above-mentioned timeline problems derailed me. I ended up seriously confused and almost gave up.
Luckily I decided to give it another chance in written form, and quickly figured out what was going on. It's not difficult to follow if you are reading it. And once I had Dale's voice in my head, it was almost like I could still hear him reading to me once I switched to the print edition.
Morgenstern is endlessly clever with her mise-en-scene. So many aspects of the Gilded Age circus are extraordinary: the clock, the bonfire, the tattooed contortionist. You can get a little caught up in just the atmosphere and forget that there's a story going on.
But the story is original, too. The circus is more than just a circus, it's an enchanted arena where two magicians (Celia and Marco) are compelled to battle for supremacy in a contest neither of them wants, the outcome of which will prove ruinous for one (or both) of them. If their story unfolds a little predictably sometimes, no matter; in this show the setting is as important as the plot.
At the same time I was reading this, I happened to tour the Samuel Nickerson House, now known as the Driehaus Museum, a Gilded Age marble palace on Chicago's near north side. It was very easy to imagine the circus impresario Chandresh Christophe Lefevre hosting one of his midnight dinner parties in the dining room of this house while Celia and Marco kiss in the upstairs ballroom.
Becky Holmes blogs about books at A Book A Week.